Magazine article American Banker

Turning to Internet for Ways to Boost Board Efficiency

Magazine article American Banker

Turning to Internet for Ways to Boost Board Efficiency

Article excerpt

AmericanWest Bancorp. in Spokane used to have an employee devote several days each month to compiling information for its directors on a compact disc, but the $2.1 billion-asset company recently started disseminating the information through a secure online portal.

It is one of a growing number of banking companies to do so.

Patrick J. Rusnack, AmericanWest's chief operating officer and executive vice president, said preparing the material for board meetings now takes about five hours - instead of entire days.

The directors find using the Web site less cumbersome than dealing with CDs, Mr. Rusnack said. "Our board members have used it for two months, and it has gotten rave reviews."

Board portals have been around for about a decade, but the concept is just starting to gain momentum in the financial services industry. Several bankers said that they have become more comfortable lately with the security features, and that their directors are more tech-savvy these days.

Portal providers are also multiplying. They include BoardVantage Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif., Diligent Board Member Services Inc. in New York, Thomson Reuters in New York, and Directors Desk Inc., a unit of Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. in New York.

They said the awareness of board portals in general is on the rise, and the functionality is improving.

Electronic voting and conferencing are some of the new features that let portals be used for more than just looking through material for a board meeting.

Joe Ruck, the president and chief executive officer of BoardVantage, said the new features enable a board to take virtual votes and pass resolutions between meetings.

"Today there is a more rigorous view of corporate responsibilities," Mr. Ruck said. "Used to be a board would only work in the meetings. Today it is expected to continue beyond the meetings. …

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